This recipe isn’t particularly exciting to most- it’s a salad with a homemade hot bacon vinaigrette. But for me, and I’m sure for my mom and dad, my siblings, and many of my aunts, uncles, and cousins, it means so much more. We called it Wilted Lettuce; and it was a salad that my maternal grandmother, Grammy, used to make all of the time when we vacationed at the cabin in Barrow Bay, Canada. Grammy’s father (my great grandfather) would go fishing in a tiny town in Ontario, Canada called Barrow Bay. He loved it so much he purchased land and built a cabin up there. While my grandmother was growing up, she and her two sisters would vacation in Barrow Bay during the summer with their family. After Grammy married my grandfather, Dadsey, they eventually bought the land and cabin and it became their go-to summer trip for their family of 7, which, of course, included my mother- the middle child. As Grammy and Dadsey’s children grew older and got married, everyone still visited the cozy cabin as frequently as possible. Grammy and Dadsey spent a lot of the warm-weather months up there after they retired and they were always happy to welcome their children and grandchildren for a visit.
My parents were (and still are) avid fishermen and they would often be gone fishing long before anyone else had awoken. During the day, my siblings and cousins and I would play in the stream, fish off the dock, swim in the bay, and go as we please. Grammy and Dadsey worked around the cabin and in their garden, where they grew their own lettuce. As the evening crept in, Grammy usually made dinner for everyone and, almost always, she prepared Wilted Lettuce with the delicious greens from their garden. It was one of Dadsey’s favorite salads and rightfully so- it’s made with bacon! I have a vivid memory of the salad being passed around the table and, as Dadsey was passing it, he transported a massive heap of salad straight from the bowl and into his mouth. If I remember correctly, he used to eat the Wilted Lettuce out of his favorite old, metal popcorn bowl.
Wilted Lettuce will forever be one of my most profound food memories. It’s one of those dishes that, whenever I taste it, I am instantly bombarded with intense feelings of nostalgia. If I close my eyes, I swear I am five years old again, swinging on the hammock with my cousins or playing in our playhouse- the Jenny Wren. Life wasn’t just good back then, it was grand. It was a time when my biggest concern for each day was figuring out how we could convince our grandparents to take us out for ice cream that evening (we typically succeeded). Grammy and Dadsey are no longer living, but the memories I have of them will never die. I am so blessed to have had such wonderful grandparents. What are your favorite food memories?
My sister and me cuddled up with Grammy and Dadsey out on the screened-in porch of the cabin
A picnic by the Little Lake with Grammy and Dadsey- my brother was less than a year old
My sister and me hamming it up in the kitchen of the cabin
- 3 Tbsp white vinegar
- 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 3 pieces of bacon
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
- 1 bunch of lettuce (Romaine, green leaf, or red leaf)
Cut up the lettuce and rinse it well.
Cook the bacon in a cast iron skillet or other pan until crispy. Place the bacon on a plate with a paper towel and dab off excess grease. In a microwave-safe bowl, measure out the oil and vinegar. Add in the sugar, salt, and pepper. Whisk together and heat in the microwave for about 30 seconds.
Crumble the cooked bacon and. Add the onion, vinagrette and crumbled bacon to the lettuce. Toss to combine. Serve immediately.
Recipe from: An O”Neill family original